Jelena Ostapenko in the fourth round of the 2023 Australian Open
Jelena Ostapenko in the fourth round of the 2023 Australian Open | (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Tennis | Rome 2023 | Rybakina and Ostapenko battle for opportunity at Rome glory

By Tony Fairbairn

  • Elena Rybakina [7] v Jelena Ostapenko [20]
  • Veronika Kudermetova [11] v Anhelina Kalinina [30]
ROME, ITALY – Elena Rybakina and Jelena Ostapenko battle for a place in the final of Rome as a dream opportunity awaits in a wide open draw.


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Elena Rybakina [7] v Jelena Ostapenko [20] | H2H: Ostapenko leads 2-1

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Elena Rybakina has finally found her clay court breakthrough in Rome after an Iga Swiatek retirement sees her into the last four in the Italian capital. Despite a frustrating season on clay before Rome, Rybakina has been rewarded for her high level of play this season in general as she has remained resilient and is now on the verge of the final. Standing in Rybakina’s way is former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko who defeated an in-form Paula Badosa to reach the last four and now has momentum on her side heading into the second Grand Slam of the season.


H2H & Match Fundamentals

Elena Rybakina [7] v Jelena Ostapenko [20] H2H: Ostapenko leads 2-1
Rome 2023 Rome, Italy
Clay (O) Prize Money: €143,490
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After a strong start to the season which saw her narrowly miss out on the Australian Open title, Rybakina had been struggling for confidence on clay. However a run to the semi-finals in Rome has changed all that with the Kazakh now looking like a strong Roland Garros contender as she looks to continue her dream run in the Italian capital.

Standing in Rybakina’s way is Ostapenko who is having one of her streaky weeks in Rome having also struggled on clay this season. Now the Latvian has momentum on her side heading into Roland Garros and now looks to take advantage of a favourable draw.

After her victory in the quarter-finals, Rybakina admitted it wasn’t her best match but was happy with her improved level in the second set.

“It was a really tough match, especially the beginning,” Rybakina told the WTA website.

“I would say I didn’t start that good. With Iga she was really aggressive from the beginning, she was more explosive, she was moving better. I was struggling with the first serve in the first set a lot, so it was not really helping me to play every time with a second serve. In the second set, I started to feel a little bit better.

“I was coming to this match without any expectations and I’m just happy that in the second set I started to feel much better the forehand and started to move better. So I think it was just good from me overall no matter the result. Just happy to play another match and looking forward to it.”

As for Ostapenko, the Latvian spoke about her love for Rome and how playing better in the more decisive moments was crucial against Badosa.

“This is one of my favourite tournaments. I really love playing here,” Ostapenko told the WTA website.

“I was never was more than in quarterfinals, and now, I’m finally in the semi-finals. Paula is a great player and I know she is such a fighter, so I expected a tough battle. The most important thing was to fight for every point.

“The match is only over when you shake hands, so even though some points and games didn’t go my way, I just managed it. I think I played well in deciding moments.”

Rybakina will look to use her serve to dictate the tempo of the rallies and create depth to neutralise the power of Ostapenko. Meanwhile the Latvian will focus on creating angles from the return and forcing Rybakina into mistakes early on in the rallies. This will be a contest between two power players and the slower, heavier conditions will allow Ostapenko to punch holes through Rybakina’s game and edge to victory.

Prediction: Ostapenko in three sets.



Veronika Kudermetova [11] v Anhelina Kalinina [30]  | H2H: Tied at 1-1

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Veronika Kudermetova has continued her consistent clay court season as she finds herself in a clay court semi-final for the second consecutive tournament. After having a great week in Madrid, Kudermetova has continued to impress in Italy as the 11th seed now looks to reach a WTA 1000 singles final for the first time in her career. Standing in Kudermetova’s way is Anhelina Kalinina who battled past Beatriz Haddad Maia in a three and a half hour contest to reach the last four as she continues to prove why she is a threat on clay courts.


H2H & Match Fundamentals

Veronika Kudermetova [11] v Anhelina Kalinina [30] H2H: Tied at 1-1
Rome 2023 Rome, Italy
Clay (O) Prize Money: €143,490
TBC Amazon Prime Video <– Sign up for trial

Kudermetova is one of the most underrated players on the WTA tour and after a poor start to the season, the 11th seed has found her feet on the clay reaching back-to-back semi-finals in Madrid and Rome. Now Kudermetova is looking to reward her consistent form over the last couple of weeks with a first WTA 1000 singles final.

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Standing in her way is Kalinina, who also has struggled this season but has found her form at the right time knocking out some of the WTA’s big hitters in the process. Now Kalinina looks to use her accuracy and court craft to her advantage as she looks to cause another upset in Rome.

Speaking after her quarter-final win, Kudermetova spoke about how her loss in Charleston taught her a valuable lesson that mental health is important in terms of her game.

“I lost my first round in Charleston to a girl who is even younger than my sister,” Kudermetova told the WTA website.

“It was pretty tough for me. I tried to think what I want to do on the court, where I want to improve. I think this was the key when I started to think positively and work really hard. This is the moment everything changed.

“I was so depressed after that match. It doesn’t matter if you lose or win, but the level, how you feel on the court, what is in your mind, this is the most important. If you feel healthy mentally, you start to play better. This is the most important for me. Not to win, but to feel healthy mentally. This is the positive way to play tennis.

“The last few weeks I started to play better. A lot of good wins. I started to play more consistently. I think I am a little more calm, focused on improving, and do the right things, because before I tried to play good and show results. But this is not the right focus for an athlete.”

As for Kalinina, the Ukrainian praised her fitness coach after a long battle against Haddad Maia to get to the semi-finals.

“It feels great, but I can’t feel my body or my legs,” Kalinina told the WTA website.

“I think it was the longest match of my career. thanks to my coach and thanks to my fitness coach because this win is not my win. My part is 50 percent and 50 percent is my fitness coach.

“I started really well and I think it was my weakness because I was a little bit relaxed. Beatriz started to play really great, stepping in, playing really aggressive, but I was just waiting after 5-2. I started aggressive but I started to lose my game. I’m sorry but if you’re starting to push the ball, it’s not going to work.”

Kudermetova will look to dictate play with her backhand and use the angles to make life difficult for Kalinina. Meanwhile Kalinina will look to use her court craft and variety to outmuscle and outsmart Kudermetova. This will be a good match between two players who are feeling confident in their game but Kudermetova’s consistent power should have too much for Kalinina’s resilient baseline game.

Prediction: Kudermetova in three sets.



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